“Genius!” said one of my professors in response to my year-long graduate thesis project. Having grown up in Texas, I’d always been very interested in inhospitable climates. In short, areas that weren’t pleasant for human inhabitation – like parking lots.
For my project, I used aluminum tubing, shade fabric and metal woven wire to creative a micro-climate of hospitable (cooler) space that was mobile, lightweight and usable for an individual.
The best part of the assignment was working with my father, an engineering professor at The University of Texas, to figure out the engineering of the shape. It was an ellipsoidal hyperboloid and constructed using a ruled surface to create a stable, freestanding structure that can be opened, closed and transported easily by one person This ruled surface allowed me to use standard building materials to create a curved shape. Since curved shapes are stronger, the shade structure is able to stand and function without any additional stability required and the lightweight materials meant it weighed less than 4 lbs.
Years later, the shade is slightly faded, yet still providing respite from the Texas heat.